Censoring Sex: A Historical Journey Through American Media

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In this gracefully written, accessible, and entertaining volume, John E. Semonche surveys censorship for reasons of sex from the nineteenth century up to the present. He covers the various forms of American media-books and periodicals, pictorial art, motion pictures, music and dance, radio, television, and the Internet. Despite the varieties of censorship, running from self-censorship to government bans, a common story is told. Censorship, whether undertaken to ward off government regulation, to help preserve the social order, or to protect the weak and vulnerable, proceeds on the assumption that the censor knows best and that limiting the choices of media consumers is justified. Covering the history of censorship of sexual ideas and images is one way of telling the story of modern America, and Semonche tells that tale with insight and style.

About the Author:
John E. Semonche is professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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Editorial Reviews

Marjorie Heins
Fascinating and eminently readable, Censoring Sex traces the paradoxical history of America's simultaneous obsession with, and fear of, that 'great and mysterious motive force in human life'—human sexuality.
Joseph W. Slade
By revisiting large and small instances of censorship, Semonche's history finds new levels of detail in cases that are usually glossed over. Moral concerns over representations of sexuality and gender shaped the evolution of American media, and Censoring Sex traces them with both care and flair.
Durham Sun-Herald
Semonche's book, with its many stories and succinct discussion of court cases, besides being an important and highly readable history of sex and censorship, is a must for anyone interested in free speech and the First Amendment.
May 2008 CHOICE
Historian Semonche takes readers on a fascinating trip....Recommended.
Svetlana Mintcheva
Censoring Sex is a wide-ranging survey of the struggle between contrary needs of human expression. While we must talk about sex we also are compelled to condemn sex as dirty, harmful to children, and unworthy of representation in art, literature, or film. The specific controversies presented in this book, deftly integrated in the overarching story of changing First Amendment law, are as informative as they are entertaining. The lines of permissibility we draw today are undoubtedly more liberal than in the 19th century and new technologies have made small town community values a thing of the past. However, as Semonche so clearly shows, the terms of the debate over sexual representation persist almost unchanged. For readers who think that it is perhaps time for a fresh view, Censoring Sex will be an informative read.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742551329
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/20/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 310
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

John E. Semonche is professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. An authority on American constitutional and legal history, he is the author of numerous articles and books, including Keeping the Faith: A Cultural History of the U.S. Supreme Court and Religion and Constitutional Government in the United States.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction Chapter 2 1. Books and Periodicals: Seduction by the Written Word and Maybe a Picture or Two Chapter 3 2. Paintings, Sculptures, and Other Pictorial Arts: You Call Dirty Pictures Art? Chapter 4 3. The Movies: Teaching the Wrong Lessons and in the Dark As Well Chapter 5 4. Music and Dance: Stirring the Senses and Unleashing the Beast Chapter 6 5. Radio, Television, and the Internet: Home Invaders 7 Epilogue

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